by Jake Appleman/@JakeAppleman
So I’ve had this piece, in various incarnations, forever. And by forever, I mean two years. Literally. I’ve been tweaking this for two years. But I’ve never posted it. Mostly because poking fun of Stephon Marbury under the SLAM banner is kind of like walking into the Vatican and dropping a deuce in a Pope hat. Yet, somewhere between some insomnia and a stunningly normal end-of-October sight–college-aged girls moving through Manhattan in herds…herds dressed like a sluts–I remembered that you can do anything on Halloween. Without further ado…
What, you thought the most anticipated opening week in NBA history would belong to the multiple superstars that changed teams and the memory of the most exciting 7-game finals since the 80s?
We should have seen this coming. When the man parlayed his summer ’09 Ustream marathon extravaganza into a free mixtape, we should have guessed the next logical step. After all, building hype is what Starbury does best.
Taking something infamous–screaming “THEY TRIED TO PUT ME IN A BOX!” repeatedly–and flipping it by blasting it behind the guitar riff from Alice In Chains’ “Man In a Box”? Spellbinding. Coating your throat with a thin layer of strawberry Vaseline and annihilating your naysayers in rhyme over an Ice Cube “No Vaseline” sample? Gross, but unmistakably fantastic. And that’s the worst thing you can say about the “Love Is Love” mixtape: “gross, but unmistakably fantastic.”
So here it is, his album dropping at the end of the Halloween weekend David Stern has been looking forward to since three superstars from the ’03 draft class changed the game by signing shorter contract extensions.
Basketball may be back in New York (relatively), but nobody cares because we got an advance copy of Starbury’s debut album, They Tried to Put Me in a Jukebox.
Here’s the review, track by track.
Steph sings about the pressures to make it to the NBA after the repeated failures of his talented brothers. It’s a heartfelt song that makes you want to like him.
Where I’m From:
This is Steph’s ode to Coney Island. You kind of get the feeling that he’s out of touch with his old neighborhood these days, but his soulful delivery helps convey the importance of home.
Choice lyric: “Never bored on the boardwalk, the ball’s bouncing / problems in my neighborhood abounding and astounding / my words rhyme factorial like Clyde Frazier’s announcing”
This is terrible. It’s Steph crooning about how he should have gotten a contract similar to then-teammate Kevin Garnett, which just isn’t true.
Choice lyric: “You said you loved ‘Sota / but you wouldn’t even buy me a soda”
Carry the Swamp:
It’s easy to feel bad for Steph as he discusses his trials and tribulations playing in New Jersey. His arrogant defiance is the NBA’s precursor to Kanye West, except without the consistent winning.
Choice lyric: “I’d rather play hockey with Samake than try to mesh with Esch / you serious, Vladamir Stepania?…the Feick outta here”
Steph claims that the ’02-03 Suns should have won a championship. If pressed for comment, one would assume that former Suns, Steve Nash and Jason Kidd, passed.
Steph reminisces about coming home to play in New York. It’s nice at first-Penny Hardaway mentions always tug at the heartstrings-but again falls victim to Steph’s propensity to blame others.
Choice lyric: “Tim Thomas talking fugazi smack / Can I have Keith Van Horn back?”
Not My Fault ’06-07:
Steph asserts that the ’06-07 Knicks’ inability to make the playoffs wasn’t his fault (mostly true)-but, in doing so, castigates his teammates.
Choice lyric: “Back in NYC, I’m the hostess with the mostest / too bad Jerome James is the mostest with the Hostess”
What up, Cuz? What up, thug? What up, gangsta?:
Steph addresses issues within his family, including a rumored feud involving his cousin, Sebastian Telfair of the Minnesota Timberwolves, and the controversial YouTube video Telfair’s half-brother, Jamel Thomas, put up–and has since removed. Family beef, even between divas, can seem unnecessary sometimes. This is one of those times.
Choice lyric: “No you look Fabolous, really. Where’s the chain? / Jamel, I’m coming to Italy, don’t ever change”
A promotional track for his fledgling clothing line. Cheaply made.
Choice lyric: “The haters used to call my dribbles ‘carries’ / Now I outfit them for $29.99 at Steve & Barry’s!”
“We Got Zach Randolph! We Got Zach Randolph!” (skit):
The enthusiasm is unwarranted.
I’m Mike’d up:
Steph recounts his infamous interview with Bruce Beck. Solid entertainment value due primarily to the fact that he sampled the entire interview in the background.
Phone Call (skit):
Steph interrupts the track to take a phone call. It’s mostly unintelligible.
My Better Half:
Steph references something derogatory he said about his wife to Bruce Beck and sets the human race back a good 15 to 20 years in the process.
Intern in the Back of a Truck:
Here Steph sets the human race back even further. He hasn’t been born yet.
Steph lists, in his dulcet baritone, everything he knows about Isiah Thomas. It’s hard not to suddenly feel sorry for Steph again, and that’s the essence of Starbury: just when you think you’ve quit him, he wraps you back in like basketball’s answer to the psychotic supermodel girlfriend.
Tattoo on my Head:
Like sandals with socks, indefensibly bad.
Say A Little Prayer For You:
Steph sings an a capella biblical passage to all the heathens that have covered him throughout his career; ignorant, but surprisingly well performed.
You Can’t Buy My Soul Out:
Steph badly mangles various themes that shouldn’t go together (money, spirituality, survival at the workplace). It’s like he took the absolute worst of 50 Cent, put it in a bottle, cross-pollinated it with the worst of R. Kelly, and then didn’t try.
Boston Me Party:
Steph rambles on and on about finally getting to play for a winner. The song fits with the rest of the album because it adds another layer to an already rich tapestry of bizarre lyrical fabric.
Choice lyric: “Trying to take down the Magic / Just run the offense, rabbit / No more Starbury, you’re Goran Dragic” (Bonus points for the mispronunciation of Dragic’s last name.)
Steph enlightens the masses, spitting fiery bars about his dominance in the China Basketball League.
Choice lyrics: “We looking to repeat / crowd looks like Canal Street” and “In Chinatown, people call me Mister / but it ain’t no movie, so my mother ain’t my sister”
Guess Who’s Back:
Steph celebrates his official return to the public sphere with a track that simultaneously epitomizes his grating persona and incoherent brilliance. He’s like a fully liberated Weezy, except his cough syrup is life.
It’s an unsatisfying end to an uneven album. The talent and desire are evident throughout, but the will to make use of everything available-to make it the best it can be-is definitely not.
At least it’s entertaining.
Jake Appleman is a Senior Writer for SLAM Magazine and a contributor to NBA.com. Stephon Marbury was his favorite player in 1999. Read more at JakeAppleman.com